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A Death in Brazil: A Book of Omissions (John MacRae Books) Hardcover – May 5, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The death of the title refers to a recent event, but Times Literary Supplement writer Robb gets his mysterious subtitle most directly from Machado de Assis, a 19th-century Brazilian novelist considered at length for his ability to weave discussion of the nation's racial and economic disparities into his wildly popular serial fictions for women's magazines. The term's origins, however, are biblical; First and Second Chronicles were called "Omissions" because they contained information left out of the preceding Books of Kings. Although Robb tries to fill in some of the gaps in recent Brazilian history, he doesn't so much uncover new data on the spectacularly corrupt 1990â€"1992 presidency of Fernando Collor as pull together some of the many disparate sources. Collor's rise and fall, and the murder of his chief henchman, form a solid backbone for the book, but one from which Robb frequently wanders to ruminate on centuries of Brazilian history filled with eroticism and violent upheaval. He also recounts his own travels through modern Brazil, devoting as much attention to the sensual delights of buchada de bode (stuffed goat's stomach) as he does to a threatening encounter with the military police. The overall result is a bit of a jumble, but it's a delightful jumble: a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with a Latin beat. At various points, Robb compares the unfolding Collor scandal to the soap opera staples of Brazilian television, and he's managed to capture the story's lurid surrealism with a deft, erudite touch.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

One night twenty years ago in Rio de Janeiro, the author was attacked by a knife-wielding burglar, who then broke down and stayed until dawn, unburdening his soul. Robb became fascinated with Brazil, and here offers a seductive synthesis of history, gastronomy, literature, pop culture, and current events. He is most drawn to the landscape of the northeast. Once home to communities of escaped slaves, the region has, more recently, produced such figures as the disgraced President Fernando Collor de Mello, who was impeached in 1992, and Luis (Lula) Inácio da Silva, a former metalworker who was elected President a decade later. Between the mouthwatering dishes and caipirinhas, Robb explores the extreme contrasts of wealth and poverty, beauty and brutality—tens of thousands of violent deaths each year—in what he considers the "most thrilling country in the Western Hemisphere."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: John MacRae Books
  • Hardcover: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (May 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805076417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805076417
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Mario Sergio Conti on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have also researched one of the subjects with which A Death in Brazil deals, namely the election, government and impeachment of Fernando Collor, the former President of Brazil. From 1991 to 1997, I was managing editor at Veja, the magazine with the widest circulation in Brazil, which played an influential role in bringing about Collor's impeachment. In 1992, I received the Editor of the Year Award from the World Press Review for Veja's coverage during the period.

At the end of 1999, after almost two years of full-time writing, I finished my 720-page book on the subject, entitled Notícias do Planalto: A imprensa e Fernando Collor (News From the Planalto: The press and Fernando Collor). In writing the book I interviewed 140 people and read more than a hundred books. Notícias do Planalto was a bestseller in Brazil, selling more than 80,000 copies.

Peter Robb invited me to lunch in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of 2001. Robb praised Notícias do Planalto and told me of his plans to write a book about Brazil, Fernando Collor and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. I recommended that he read certain books and gave him phone numbers for both Collor and Lula da Silva. I never heard from him again.

When I read A Death in Brazil I was rather shocked. There were nineteen passages in Robb's book that were startlingly similar to passages in Notícias do Planalto. What we are dealing with here is not simply use of information, as is normal in intellectual work. The fact is that entire sentences, lines of reasoning and images recur with only a few words changed. I have prepared translated transcripts of the passages in question from Notícias do Planalto and the corresponding passages from A Death in Brazil.

Robb mentions my book only once.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By T. Stroll on August 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"A Death in Brazil" is more than a mere personal memoir, travelogue, or political history. Rather, it combines all three, creating a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, a vivid, impressionistic tableau of Brazilian life and culture in which Robb interlaces past and present in a compelling, sometimes seamless manner.

If you've spent much time in Brazil, Robb's brushstrokes of local color will bring back many memories. In my case, "A Death in Brazil" evoked a scary taxi ride in Maceio in Brazil's northeast in 1989; the mold encrusting the walls of a cheap hotel in Salvador in 1984, flavoring the room with a smell that I can still detect almost as soon as I set foot in the country; the protests for eleicoes direitas ja (direct elections now) in 1984, toward the end of military rule. Even the cover photo, of old pastel houses and people lingering aimlessly in their doorways to escape the stifling indoor heat, brings back memories of Rio de Janeiro's Gloria neighborhood, where in 1984 my hotel charged U.S. $3.20 a day for a room with intermittent air conditioning (depending on the mood of the reception desk) and private bath (thankfully with a gas-powered hot shower, rather than the uncertain chuveiro eletrico with wires dangling ominously behind the shower head, which always forced a choice between the promise of hot water and the possibility of sudden electrocution). The last time I was in Rio, in 2000, the hotel was more like $40 a day, and it had installed bulletproof glass to protect the reception desk from street crime. Armed violence is now a serious problem in urban Brazil; the urbane news presenter Boris Casoy devotes much of the Record Network television news to it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Karen Seashore on August 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Last October, I ordered Peter Robb's "A Death in Brazil: A Book of Omissions," paying for hardcover on the strength of its reviews. It was worth the price. And well worth the weight. I hauled it around in my rucksack for during a four-week trip in the state of Bahia. Being a story hog, I generally read fiction written by local authors when I travel. But this nonfiction kept me fascinated throughout. As a visitor with little information about Brazil, I found the book gave me a tremendous headstart on the culture, the political history, the food, the population and TV. With many quirky details.

Robb's mix of political history, personal travelogue, and ideology sustained me throughout. After I gobbled up the book, my husband read it. A fellow traveler borrowed it and read it in two days. Then a Brazilian friend insisted I leave it for her and now I'm ordering the book in paperback to take with me this winter when I return to Bahia.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By LDN on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Peter Robb has surpassed 'M' in this book. From a slow start (and patience is a virtue here) the insight of Brazil through Robb's eyes is nothing short of stunning. I bought the book because I loved 'M', Robb's swashbuckling analysis of Caravagio's passionate work and life. Be warned though, I gave a copy to a friend who 'couldn't get into it'. Robb has a style that requires the reader to go for the ride. I found it superbly rewarding. My only complaint is it's too long between books. This book ? Thank you Mr Robb. Brilliant. I bought my copy in a bookstore. This review is a result of sending a copy to a friend. That's my view. *****
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